The Courage of Brayden Harrington

Kid
Pictured is a screen grab of Brayden Harrington speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, 2020.

Let me do the probably necessary throat-clearing: This is not a political post, and as far as I am concerned, has nothing to do with politics. Even though it took place at the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, I don’t see the message I took away from it as political. Whatever one’s political persuasion, they can appreciate the courage of Brayden Harrington.

As I said, at the DNC on Aug. 20, there was about a two-minute segment where Brayden Harrington had the chance to talk. And that’s exactly it: a chance, an opportunity. Here is that moment in full:

Brayden is a 13-year-old kid who also has a stutter, similar to Joe Biden, former vice president of the United States and the Democratic candidate for president, who had a stutter when he was kid. Brayden met Biden in New Hampshire a few months back, apparently.

“It was amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president.” – Brayden said, of Biden

Biden told Brayden about a book of poems from William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet, he read to help with his stutter. Brayden said he’s just a normal kid and in a short amount of time, Biden made him feel more confident about something that’s “bothered me my whole life.”

Bravo to this kid. First off, no matter who you are, talking to a national (and to some extent, global) audience is daunting and intimidating. Doing it as a 13-year-old blows my mind. Doing it as a 13-year-old with a speech impediment and courageously doing it anyway is extraordinary to me.

When I was younger, probably a bit younger than Brayden, I had difficulty with pronouncing words with the letter “r.” I had to take speech therapy classes. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it. I have a memory of being in my mom’s old red van, and her telling me to put my tongue at the roof of my mouth and slowly sound it out, but that’s about it.

I do, however, remember the lack of confidence I had for the rest of my schooling and still do to this day about pronouncing different words, particularly ones with the letter “r.” Most times, if I have to speak, I will quickly switch the word in my head that seems too daunting to something easier to say. I’m not sure others even would notice the way I pronounce words with “r,” but in my head, it’s always there.

But on top of that, I have rather severe anxiety about public speaking. I’m terrified of it, and I imagine, in some measure, that’s related to the aforementioned speech issues.

To see Brayden up there giving his speech, powering through his stutter, was a poignant moment for me on a personal level. I honestly wish I had his courage. For years through school, including at the college level, I dodged and got out of public speaking because I was too scared to do it.

I’ve only ever known one other person who had a stutter. He was in a few of my college courses years ago. You know who was the first person to raise their hand to answer a question and talk in class? He was, and just like Brayden, he would work through his stutter. It was always brave to me, but at the same time, I also couldn’t understand why he kept raising his hand and speaking.

But that’s courage, right? Pushing through adversity, personal or otherwise, to achieve a goal, and for Brayden or that student, the goal was something a lot of us take for granted: Speaking.

I’m proud of Brayden, and thought he deserved particular plaudits.

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